2002 Mercedes-Benz McLaren MP4-17

McLaren Mercedes presented its 2002 challenger, the MP4-17, at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Following the unveiling Alexander Wurz took the MP4-17 for its first run of the day.

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With only a few FIA Formula One regulation changes for the technical team to take into consideration, the MP4-17 is an evolution of last year’s car McLaren MP4-16. The main visible differences include changes to the front suspension area and rear bodywork.

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The most visually striking element of the MP4/17’s design configuration is the dramatically sculptured aerodynamic lower front wishbones and the whole treatment of the front suspension, while the rear bodywork has also slightly different treatment. The decision to switch to Michelin rubber has entailed more significant design implications, some of which were only fully evaluated when testing began earlier this month with the interim MP4/16 test cars.

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Aerodynamically, the car has been developed in the team’s new, state-of-the-art wind tunnel facility, already in operation at the TAG McLaren Group’s new headquarters and technology center, which was under construction in Woking, UK.

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In addition to the completely new Mercedes-Benz engine, the FO 110M, the switch to Michelin tires has had a significant influence on the MP4-17’s configuration, with tires affecting the steering, aerodynamics and the balance of the car. The FO 110M V10 first ran on the dyno on 21st November 2001 and has since been extensively tested on the transient dynos in both Stuttgart and Brixworth.

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The MP4-17 is the sixth car appearing in the distinctive West McLaren Mercedes colour scheme introduced at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, which saw the first victory of the partnership. In the 83 Grands Prix since then, the team has secured 30 race wins, two Drivers and one Constructors’ World Championships.

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Scotsman David Coulthard in 2002 commented: “The team has done a great job at the factory preparing the MP4-17 and we are all looking forward to seeing how the car runs. Since testing recommenced, we have completed significant mileage and this, in addition to the variable weather conditions, has allowed us to fully assess how the Michelin tyres perform. There is an inherent determination to succeed that exists throughout the whole team and we will continue to develop the car to ensure we have the complete package and are in a strong, competitive position for the forthcoming season.”

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Kimi Räikkönen commented on the new car: “It has been an intensive few weeks as the team and myself build and cement relationships and understanding, and I am now beginning to feel like an integral part of West McLaren Mercedes. We have covered a lot of ground in testing already and I have been very impressed with the interim car. I am now extremely keen to drive the MP4-17 and to continue my learning curve in the build up to the 2002 season.”

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Alexander Wurz said at the launch: “The West McLaren Mercedes team, are all very excited to see the MP4-17 running today, and I am honored that the team have let me take the car for its first run of the day. We believe that we are further ahead with the process than we were at this time last year and are feeling positive about the new season. I will continue to remain dedicated to the test programme and the ongoing development of the car during the course of the year.”

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“We’re optimistic about the challenges ahead of us in the 2002 season, having completed a comprehensive and positive development programme during the winter test ban,” team principal Ron Dennis said. “We are launching at this early stage of the pre-season to maximise the opportunity for track work to ensure we are totally prepared for the new season and the ultimate goal for the whole team, the fight for the World Championships.”

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“The team has worked extremely hard since development began on our new car so that we were able to start testing with the MP4-17 as soon as possible,” Mercedes’ head motorsport Norbert Haug added. “Now the whole team will be making the best use of the six weeks ahead of us for testing the car and engine. Our common goal is certainly to be in a position to fight for the World Championships and to give David and Kimi a competitive and reliable package”

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The team did not perform as well as expected to in 2002, in a season dominated by Ferrari, and due to the unreliability of the car; they eventually finished third in the constructors championship with 65 points and one victory, in Monaco.